Decorating on the Cheap: 10 Ways I Save Money on Decor (and you can, too!)

I love decorating. And truly, I love decorating on a budget... not despite my budget.

"You spent how much?! You bought that where?"

Decorating on a budget means getting creative, getting thrifty, and getting my DIY on.

It means Saturday afternoons spent browsing thrift stores and antique shops. It means summer mornings spray painting secondhand furniture on the lawn before the heat and humidity sets in. And it means seeing everyone's jaw drop when they ask me where I got those pillows or curtains or that unique chair... and I tell them that not only did I snag it for less than $10, but also it came from the Family Dollar or Goodwill or Target clearance section.

Whether you're on a budget thanks to student loans, saving for a big purchase, or just because you love the thrill of the thrift... here are my ten tips for decorating without breaking the bank:

1. Scavenge the clearance aisles. 
At Target and TJ Maxx, I always hit up the clearance displays and "dollar thrills" sections first. Always. 

2. Know the mark-down schedule. 
A simple online search will tell you that Target marks down furniture on Wednesdays, then home decor and housewares on Thursdays... so I try to hit up the store on Thursday nights or Friday afternoons. Go ahead... Google search "Target clearance schedule." You won't regret it. 

3. Figure out wants and needs first. 
(And know the difference.) Especially when shopping clearance, it's easy to be tempted by the rock-bottom prices. But dollars add up quickly. Don't just buy it because it's cheap; buy it because you need it... or in some cases, reeeeally want it and won't just throw it in a closet and forget about it a month later.

Extra picture frames are always something I just really want rather than need. We all have weaknesses.
4. Cart 'n' Carry.
If something strikes me but I'm unsure whether I need it or want to spend the money on it, I plop it in the cart (or basket) and carry it around with me for a while. As I shop the rest of the store, and fill my cart with other things I need/want, I'll be able to realistically determine whether that object really needs to go home with me. Usually, all I actually needed was to carry it around for a while and pretend it was mine. After doing that, it's easier to part with and put back (in its correct spot, of course). 

Friendly Side-Note: This concept doesn't work for everyone. Sometimes carrying around an object makes you feel even more attached to it. If that's what happens to you, I'd suggest standing there and mulling it over for a bit longer before putting it in your cart. 

5. Coupons and discounts. 
I don't have the time, patience, or commitment to be a hardcore coupon'er. But I do have the Target Cartwheel app on my phone. I use the deals to plan out groceries as well as bigger purchases that I might not score on clearance (like new bedding, rugs, and storage items). I also use a Target debit card because 5% off every purchase adds up to decent savings over time.

This looks like an antique paradise! 
6. Shop secondhand. 
I love Goodwill, antique shops, and secondhand stores. People get rid of such great stuff! I subscribe to Goodwill's emails so I know when certain things are on sale at my local stores and receive "spend $20, get $5 off" coupons. I mainly shop secondhand for things I can revamp with a little DIY TLC: shelves or furniture I can paint, picture frames or baskets I can spray paint, cheap candles, canvases I can re-paint over with my own art, etc. It's always a treasure hunt, so eat well, hydrate, and go in knowing you might have to do some digging! 

7. Get friendly with Craig. 
As in, Craigslist. I have a love/hate relationship with him and his listings. I love how there are so many great finds posted at great prices! I hate dealing with the shady, difficult, or annoying sellers and buyers. After years of dealings, it boils down to this: Check the free section just in case someone's pitching something project-worthy. Be wary of items that might carry bed bugs (ew!). Pay in cash. Meet up somewhere public rather than sharing your address or going to their address. (Lots of police stations welcome your Craigslist transactions in their parking lot!) Bonus points if you choose a meeting place with a camera! Take a buddy with you. If someone's acting weird, antsy, or demanding, stop talking to them and block them. Use a separate email address from your usual one, and don't give away any personal information. Better safe than sorry. Be polite. If you change your mind, let them know rather than standing them up. 

8. Don't ignore dollar stores. 
I love Family Dollar, Dollar General, and the Dollar Tree, and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I go here for little things I want to makeover like candle holders and jars that I can paint or personalize. I shop here for basics like towels, bath mats, and plain curtains. And usually, I find great finds like pretty throw pillows, cute rugs, and lovely picture frames. In fact, I love the dollar stores so much that I'm kind of afraid to share my best kept secret for fear that all the good things will be bought up! ;)

9. DIY state of mind. 
Always try to see the potential in things. Not all DIY projects have to be major undertakings. Just imagine what something will look like with a few coats of spray paint, or after sanding and re-staining, or with some new drawer pulls, or covered in pretty wallpaper. Keep an open mind, tight wallet, and Pinterest at the ready.

"Hmmm, maybe this mid-century console could work as a bar cart in my living room!
And this office would look sooo lovely with that armchair from my bedroom..."

10. Shop your own space. 
Sometimes, I just want to give a room a new look. Sometimes, I just don't have the extra bucks set aside to run to Target or even the nearest dollar store. And sometimes, I simply don't want to change out of my pj pants to leave the house. In these instances, I shop my own apartment. If you always purchase things you love, go ahead and experiment with moving things from room to room. Play with colors and patterns. Try artwork in different settings. Rearrange furniture. Swap curtains. You can always go back to the way things were, but you may find out that the living room rug just looks brilliant under your dining table. Or vice versa!

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